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36th Croatian Football tournament Auckland

Article courtesy of Croatian Soccer Federation of Australia & New Zealand

What an amazing weekend filled with fun, football and festivities.
The memories of this tournament will last an eternity for many reasons, none more so than being the first time in Auckland.

Thursday night and we're off to a flyer, the teams coming in to register their teams, acquaintances getting renewed and new bonds being created. Our hosts welcomed us in typical Croatian style with great food and good company. We got to witness a controversial start to the tournament with St Albans Dinamo going down to Auckland Croatia and in the process losing three players to red cards and Auckland receiving one send off. The night was capped off with lots of singing and partying and we hadn't even got to the official opening.

Friday morning and the rain kicked in, it didn't wash away our lively spirits though. Our hosts put on a Maori welcoming display followed by our dignitaries including club president Ivan Pervan, Ambassador of Croatia Vicencije Biuk and the ever popular President of the Croatian Soccer Federation Ivan Vuletic, opening the 36 th Annual Croatian Soccer Tournament of Australia and New Zealand. Soon afterwards the action began on the pitch. With 31 teams who travelled far and wide there was a lot to get through. Through the day there were plenty of options with 6 grounds hosting matches, winery tours and the options to do a little sightseeing too. Before long it was the evening which brought on the Friday night disco. What a night it was. Major Minor who rock the tournament every year didn't disappoint with their rocking and spirit stirring song choices, they pumped them out as only they know how. Hundreds of people invading the dancefloor, even dancing on tables to get the best vantage point. St Albans and Gwelup were busy belting out tunes of their own during the pauses which delighted many traditionalists. The night came to an end but no one wanted to go it was a sign of things to come.

Saturday and we are wrapping up the final group matches before finals begin. Tournament power houses like Adelaide Croatia and St Albans Dinamo began to find form, Hurstville were surprising a few, but it was Melbourne Knights who hold firm and marched into the final along with Adelaide. In Div 2 Vukovar once again powered into the final but there were some new comers to the form plate and Gospic/Mostar combined team were unlucky not to progress to the semi finals even though they didn't lose a game. Auckland Reserves also had a strong hitout but it was Bosna Reserves who were pipped up against Vukovar in the final. In the Womens groups the top 4 teams of Auckland Croatia, Central United Croatia, Canberra and North Geelong Croatia stood out and competed in the semi finals with North Geelong and Canberra progressing to the final.
Miss Croatia Gala night on Saturday night at the Auckland SkyCity Casino. Set in a grand location that was both inviting and awesome. Almost 1000 people were there to witness another massive event. It seems that this event just gets better every year. Major Minor were at it again with their party tracks getting us on our feet. However it was the Miss Croatia girls we came to see and my how they were beautiful. 12 women giving the judges a difficult choice to make. They spent the day together including a winery tour and a luncheon followed by interviews. In the evening they paraded in their beautiful gowns by Sabatini Design followed by their team colours. The judges met and the winner was announced Miss Adelaide Croatia Monica Maric. Runner Up Maja Pecirep from Gwelup and Miss Personality Angy Matesic.
Sunday Finals Day
Women – North Geelong Croatia 2 v Canberra Croatia 0
The first 10 mins could best be described as cagey and dour. Neither team really causing the other any reason for concern. However 5 mins later the Warriors stepping it up a notch had Canberra back pedaling with attack after attack and they capitalised to give themselves a halftime lead, sensing the tired legs of Canberra were kicking in. At halftime you have never seen such calm people, The Warriors knew they were in the box seat, and kept the ball moving and let Canberra chase which worked to their favour. Although a couple of tense moments from counter attacks snuck in as well as the Warriors own tired legs, they didn't give up and 5 mins from the end sealed the win to jump to a 2 nil lead. Final whistle blew with jubilation and a little relief. After being the bridesmaid the last few times North Geelong had done it and won the title back.

Div 2 Men – Vukovar 0 v Bosna Reserves 2
Bosna were on the front foot from the outset, Vukovar seemingly with fatigue kicking in were gallantly trying but couldn't find the gear needed to keep up with the Bosna boys. Although Vukovar had their opportunities it was Bosna who were able to capitalize on their chances. The final few minutes saw Bosna tire but not enough to give Vukovar a sniff and they took out the Div 2 title.

Div 1 Men – Melbourne Knights 2 v Adelaide Croatia 1
A tight and entertaining match between two very good teams. The Knights had their fair share of chance early and it seemed as if they let Adelaide off the hook a few times as Adelaide built in confidence, but the Knights stuck firm and went one up halfway through the first half. Adelaide didn't relent though and were soon afterwards able to level the scores. Half time at 1 -1 it would come down to fitness. Melbourne Knights came out stronger and showed that they were here for the win and rolled on to notch up a second half way through the 2 nd half. They had several other opportunities as Adelaide's fitness waivered but it was enough to give them the title. They were the best team in the group matches and prove their finals appearance was warranted with a good win.
Congratulations also to St Albans Dinamo for taking out he Team Spirit Shield for being the club who best epitomises the tournaments foundations of being competitive on the park and socializing and attending all the functions off the park. They built on their already impressive image for other clubs to take note.

Sunday night recovery party and you would have been excused for thinking it was Friday, the numbers were out again as teams were ready to celebrate their wins or commiserate their losses, mostly I believe is that they were glad to be partying with new and old friends and giving each other a send off to remind each other it's only 51 weeks until we do it all again. Major Minor rocked the walls down again and as per Friday no one was ready to leave, but planes were ready to take off and reality had set in. It was a terrific occasion with so much to admire. Well Done Auckland on being a great host, we look forward to seeing you all in Sydney for 2011 when King Tomislav hosts the 37 th Annual Croatian Soccer Tournament of Australia and New Zealand.